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Why do alumni support their alma mater?

3 min read

Answering this question is key to donor acquisition and retention. 

While your initial response to receiving a gift should always be “Thank you”, your secondary response should be “Why?”

We don’t part with our hard earned money easily, and we certainly don’t donate it to our alma mater, or any cause,  without reason. The key to improving engagement with and support from alumni is finding out what their interests and passions are and matching those with available opportunities at your institution.

At Mongoose, we work with hundreds of colleges and universities, helping them foster relationships with their students and alumni, and most examples of success involve an emotional or personal connection being made.

A 10% increase in donor retention can increase the lifetime value of your donor database by 200%. *

*Adrian Sargeant ,PhD Hartsook Chair in Fundraising Professor of philanthropic studies Indiana University Center on Philanthropy

When you better understand a person’s motivation for giving, you can better match future opportunities for them to give again or volunteer.

Figure out their interests and passions

It can be difficult to collect the interests of thousands of alumni. But there is a way if you have a means of contact. A simple ‘one-question’ survey via text can go a long way in helping your staff collect this vital information. 

Hi Tyler, it’s Andrew, President of the UNC Young Alumni Chapter. Would you mind answering this one question survey – Which of the following do you identify with the most?

A. Software and Information Systems
B. College of Computing and Informatics
C. Athletics
D. The Library
E. Something Else

Do you have a first-time donor stewardship plan?

After sending their gift acknowledgement, consider asking donors what motivated their support within one week.  This information should be recorded on the donor record and considered when attempting to re-engage them. A texting platform can help keep these messages efficient yet highly personal.

Hi Michael, it’s Sarah from the MU Foundation. I wanted to reach out and thank you personally for your first gift in support of student scholarships.  We are so grateful! May I ask what inspires you to give?

Modernize your stewardship plan

Here’s a winning cultivation and stewardship campaign from UNC Charlotte. The school’s advancement staff sent a simple text to alumni who had expressed interest in the school marching band, asking if they’d like to watch a live stream of the band’s performance abroad.

Hi Jennifer, it’s Sallie from UNC Charlotte’s Alumni Association. Thanks for supporting the Pride of Niner Nation Marching Band. PNNMB will be performing at 3pm today for the D-Day Celebration in Normandy, France – do you want the link to watch their performance?

The results were overwhelming. More than 43% of recipients responded to the UNCC text message. This response led to meaningful conversations and engagement. The live stream helped boost school pride and re-connect alumni with something they feel passionate about.

Screen Shot 2019-08-01 at 3.02.29 PM


Sent: 163

Response rate: 43%

Over 100 replies


It’s true, people love to talk about themselves.

A question is the perfect way to start a conversation, especially if you’re taking a genuine interest in someone’s life. This text example from Coe College received a tremendous response. 

Hi, Jon, This is Barb Tupper, from the Center for Creativity and Careers at Coe. We would love to know what you are doing post-graduation. May I text you a link to a quick survey? 

Remember to solicit more than just financial support

Show your alumni and donors their opinions matter by asking for input on a project or program they care about.  You’ll improve the odds of building a lasting relationship, and help inspire positive change on your campus. Give alumni a reason to have pride in their school by reminding them they are still very much a part of the community.

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[FREE GUIDE]  Texting for Development DOWNLOAD